Sunday, June 26, 2011

Captain Scott

Up with the lark this morning. Off to Krimpen aan den IJssel to fetch a boat. Not with Koos this time, but with Mo and Craig. It feels horribly early for a Sunday morning and the world is still and hushed.

The previous owners are still in their dressing gowns, but smile cheerfully as they show us through their house and out onto their private jetty. Then it's busy, busy getting ready, checking fuel, ropes, safety measures and procedures. Never done this before, not without Koos, that is.

Mo untying ropes in readiness for our departure

The boat is a small cruiser of 7 metres. Neat, but a bit untended and unfinished inside. A nice price though. It has a large outboard motor and this is the 'fear point'. We don't know it, don't know if we can trust it, and are not sure whether it will run the distance. The former owner seems to know as much about boats as you could write on an aspirin with a pickaxe, so we are not inspired to have total confidence.

At last we are off. The ropes are cast and we ease out of the tiny harbour. We've been there for nearly an hour and not seen another craft, but Murphy pulls one out of the bag and we have to wait for a largish passenger vessel before crossing to the right bank and starting downstream.

The small private harbour where the little cruiser was moored

The waters of the IJssel are peaceful and it is millpond still. Marvellous. Craig is steering and going well. It is his boat, in fact, so he is the skipper today. Captain Scott sails again, or rather for the first time ever.

Craig at the wheel. Even his back view speaks his pride in the CMS Brutus. And justly so

Mo, steering well and with concentration

The last bridge before the Hollandse IJssel meets theNieuwe Maas

Then Mo takes a turn. She too steers well, focuses well. Then it is my turn. I am not a natural steerer. At first, I am all over the place with the unaccustomed weightlessness of the boat, and the steering has some play too - a sort of delayed action. Very unlike the positive and direct steering of the Vereeniging. But I get the hang of it in the end and take us out of the smaller Hollandse IJssel to join the wider super highway of the Nieuwe Maas. The water becomes choppy and we meet the waves caused by the bigger shipping: container barges, normal cargo craft, the Fast Ferry to Dordrecht and many more cruisers.


As we approach the monster Van Brienenoord bridge, I am alarmed by a fast ferry steaming up behind us and a stationary barge apparently blocking the opening I wanted to go through to avoid the fast ferry. One moment of panic.

But there is plenty of room for a small cruiser anyway, so we pull through the side section of the bridge and avoid the worst of the swell created by the ferry.

Over to Craig again, and Captain Scott ploughs on. We're into home territory now. "There's the tank station!" I send Koos an SMS. He calls back "I'm at the Tropicana" he says. Oh good, he is at the best point to watch to see if it's safe for us to cross. We have to power over the river , round the Noordereiland and into the south channel that leads to Mo and Craig's harbour.

As we approach, Koos calls again. A familiar barge is coming out of the exit from our own Oude Haven. "Wait for it to cross and then if it's clear, follow it over," says Koos. There is another fast ferry coming up behind us. In what seems like a coreographed manoeuvre, the pretty sailing barge, Linquenda, pulls across the river just before the ferry reaches us and they skirt round each other like well practised dancers. There is nothing more in sight, so Captain Scott powers up. "Follow that barge!" I say, and he does. We are soon safely across the river and with it the scariest part of the trip. Or almost.

Approaching the Hef Bridge

As we approach the Hef Bridge, we notice the water eddying and swirling around us. Mo has taken the wheel while Captain Scott calls the bridge keeper of their harbour, but soon passes the wheel back to the skipper to take us through the apparent maelstrom.

As we pass under the bridge, a curious sinking feeling strikes me and I see it does the same to Mo. Why does it feel as if we are being sucked into the water? It starts to be really alarming until I realise suddenly that we are not going down, it is the bridge that is going up. A small yacht with a tall mast needs to come through, and the bridge has to be raised for it. The optical illusion created by the rising section of bridge and the swirling of the waters causes a very strange physical feeling indeed.

But now we are there. We have made it, and we are safe. All that remains is for the bridge to be opened into Mo and Craig's harbour and we are told this may take a while. Captain Scott cruises round and round gently while Mo and I sit on the bows and enjoy the gentle slapping of quiet waters against the hull. The sun shines softly through the mist. This is it. This is what it's about. This is why I like boats and boating.

Finally the bridge is opened and Craig takes us slowly through. Their neighbours wave and nod approvingly at Craig's little cruiser. Up to the end of the harbour and with some helpful hands, the CMS Brutus fits snugly into its box. We are really there now, and it all went fine. No dramas, no crises have marred Craig and Mo's first ever voyage, unassisted by those with more experienced hands.

Well done Captain Scott. I think you're going to be good at this!


  1. An interesting morning Val & having known some temperamental outboards, my heart was in my mouth as I read this. Years ago we always had a pair of paddles to hand!

    Loved your phrase "could write on an aspirin with a pickaxe" yes some boat owners are like that!

  2. Wonderful real life description of a maiden journey, worded in the inimitable Vallypee way. We are justifiedly proud of your writing, and of Mo and Craig, who are essentially desert dwellers, for their courage in undertaking this venture.

  3. Well done to all the crew on safely bringing the boat to its new home. I sincerely hope the champagne was cracked open xxx

  4. Thanks for the great post meema. You were an excellent helmsman!!! Hope to go spuddling soon yey

  5. great it's an outboard motor. keep some cash handy for repairs (you know) and otherwise replacement. A motor loves to run and you will use this.

    I love your details: "The former owner seems to know as much about boats as you could write on an aspirin with a pickaxe" (very funny! and tells me they are only interested in selling the craft); and from the maelstrom to the illusion of sinking given off by the unfamiliarity of the boat and the rising (not sinking) of the bridge made my own stomach go up and down.

    great adventures Captain Val!

  6. The water might be choppy, but your writing style never is. Loved reading this, and well done all around, crew!

    It takes real courage and skill to be on those waters- so my hat is tipped to all of you.


  7. The writing is "smooth sailing" as usual :).

  8. Thank you all very much indeed.

    Mel, we had heard that tip too, and had some oars on board just in case! The trouble with the river is that the current is very strong, and we were going against it, but the oars gave us some comfort.

    Koosje, thank you too. We all felt a moment of triumph when we entered the harbour! And thanks for your guidance at that critical crossing point xxx

    Fran, it was more of a much needed cup of coffee, but the sense of achievement was no less without the champers. xx

    Mo, thank you my sweets. I hope I can join you on some spuddling too. xxx

    Gina, Mo is already looking for a backup motor. You are so right that they will need to keep a reserve of some sort, whether it's money or machine! I'm so glad you enjoyed the ride with me. As a writer yourself, that means a lot :) xx

    Anne Marie, thank you for the compliment. You are another writer whose opinion I value immensely, so your words made me smile. xx

    Grace, that's a lovely metaphor...brilliant! And thanks! You have it too, you know....xx

  9. Fantastic report VallyP, and as ever, an eloquent journey in words.

    Sounds like you guys had a fantastic trip, and I'm sorry I couldn't join you. I hope to be on the next spuddling trip though!

    And a huge well done to Mo and Craig for getting their new vessel safely to its new home.

  10. you are such a fantastic story teller, val. i got all excited reading your desription of the journey. the best of luck to the new owners of the vessel :)
    thanks for all your encouraging comments on my blog.

  11. Thank you, Jo and Ingela. Where Koos tells his stories in pictures, I try to make pictures with words :))

  12. Brilliant capture, I too like the aspirin/pickaxe comment...and this got me thinking, one can really get into trouble without proper training for these situations! Brave you are! What's next???? ;-)))

  13. I can feel the rolling of the boat, hear the slap of the waves on the hull and smell the salty tang of the sea.
    Not to mention sensing the tenseness of the crossing. I had no idea your waterways could be so frightening!
    Way to go Cap'n Scott on your maiden voyage!

  14. As well, a pestle and mortar might have been more practical... ;)

  15. What a nice maritime story! Makes me wanna take off to the sea immediately but we have a raging thunderstorm upon us for the moment being!

  16. String, Dale and Hans, many, many thanks for your comments here. The fun was in the sailing and the writing. What would life be if we didn't sometimes do things that scare us a bit, hey? At least you really know you're alive then :)

  17. Now, that I have more time on my hands I can appreciate the time you spent chronicling this trip. I must say it was a fantastic day, both sailing and the people I was with. I have been on some solo trips since then. I even once went into the Oud haven which was a hoot.


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